After rumors had Michigan State going any number of places for their bowl game, ranging from New York to California or even Florida, the Spartans learned they would indeed be out in California for the Redbox Bowl on December 31st.
But the Spartans will have their hands full on New Year’s Eve as they will face an Oregon team that won five of its first six games of the 2018 and closed out the regular season with wins in three of its final four games on its way to an 8-4 season.
This will be the sixth time that Michigan State and Oregon have met as the Spartans are 3-3 all-time in the head-to-head match-up. The two teams last met in 2015, when Michigan State picked up a 31-28 win over the Ducks in East Lansing, avenging a 46-27 loss in Eugene in 2014.
One of the biggest parts of Michigan State’s preparation over the next four weeks will be how to slow down the Ducks’ high octane offense, which averages over 37 points per contest, led by of the country’s top signal callers, Justin Herbert.
Considered to be one of the top picks in the draft if he declares, Herbert, who stands at 6-foot-6 and 233 pounds, has thrown for 2,985 yards and 28 touchdowns while completing just under 60-percent of his passes this fall.
Herbert, who injured his shoulder in the first half of Oregon’s 55-15 win over Oregon State back on November 23rd, is expected to play in the bowl game according to first-year head coach Mario Cristobal.
While the star junior quarterback is the focal point of the Ducks’ offense, Oregon is far from a one-man show on the offensive side of the ball as they have a pair of freshman standouts at running back in C.J. Verdell, who is closing in on the 1,000 yard mark (975 yards) and has found the end zone 10 times and Travis Dye, who has rushed for 721 yards and four touchdowns. Herbert’s top target in the passing game is 6-foot-2 junior receiver Dillon Mitchell, who has recorded 69 catches for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns.
For Michigan State’s struggling offense, the Spartans could be able to find some success as the Ducks rank 61st in the nation in total defense (390.5 yards per game allowed) and 63rd in scoring defense (27.0 points per game allowed).
But if the Spartans are going to have any success against the Ducks defense, they will have to solve junior linebacker Troy Dye, a tackling machine who has already recorded 101 tackles on the season bringing his career total at Oregon to 299 tackles.
Another linebacker that has proven to be a disruptive force for the Ducks is senior linebacker Justin Hollins, who has made a name for himself as someone capable of making plays in opposing backfield, registering 12 tackles for loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles to go along with his 57 total tackles. Jalen Jelks, a senior defensive end, is second on the team in tackles for loss (7.5) and sacks (3.5).
New Year’s Eve’s game between Michigan State and Oregon will obviously be one that will feature two very different teams, stylistically as the Spartans have one of the nation’s top defensive units and are in the top 20 in the country in average time of possession. The Ducks on the other hand remain one of the country’s best quick-strike, up-tempo offenses that will test Michigan State in a number of different ways.
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